Chronic back pain and associated work and non-work variables among farmworkers from Starr County, Texas

J Agromedicine. 2009;14(1):22-32. doi: 10.1080/10599240802612539.


Objectives: This study estimated the prevalence of chronic back pain among migrant farmworker family members and identified associated work and non-work variables.

Methods: Migrant farmworkers (n = 390 from 267 families) from Starr County, Texas were interviewed in their home once a year for 2 years. The original survey included items measuring demographics, smoking, sleep, farm work, and chronic back pain. For this cross-sectional analysis, multi-level logistic regression was used to identify associated work and other variables associated with chronic back pain while accounting for intraclass correlations due to repeated measures and multiple family members.

Results: The prevalence of chronic back pain during the last migration season ranged from 9.5% among the youngest children to 33.3% among mothers. Variables significantly associated with chronic back pain were age (odds ratio [OR], 1.03, per year increase), depressive symptoms while migrating (OR, 8.72), fewer than 8 hours of sleep at home in Starr County (OR, 2.26), fairly bad/very bad quality of sleep while migrating (OR, 3.25), sorting crops at work (OR, 0.18), and working tree crops (OR, 11.72).

Conclusion: The role of work exposures, depressive symptoms, and sleep in chronic back pain among farmworkers warrants further examination. Refinements in outcome and exposure assessments are also needed given the lack of a standardized case definition and the variety of tasks and crops involved in farm work in the United States.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / etiology*
  • Back Pain / epidemiology*
  • Back Pain / etiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mexico / ethnology
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Deprivation / epidemiology
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Texas / epidemiology
  • Transients and Migrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Work
  • Young Adult